Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Eyes Without a Face

I'm all out of hope
One more bad dream could bring a fall
When I'm far from home
~Billy Idol

I am about 3/4 way done with Hillbilly Gothic, and I am finding it an intriguing story. I am currently reading about the authors post partum depression, which has led to her hospitalization in a pyschiatric ward.

I am reading her account, and decide that this experience is frightening. Being in a pyschiatric ward, when you know you are there, has to be frightening, especially when those around you....Are well ...Unstable.

It led me to recall my psychiatric rotation while in nursing school. Which had to have been the most interesting rotation, the hardest to witness, the most painful to watch, and my least favorite educational rotation.

I was 22 at the time, and I remember waking one morning, and dreading going to my clinical site. I was dreading it to the point of tears. I had to observe electro-convulsive treatments that day. There were 3 scheduled. When I got to the clinical site, I recall taking my instructor aside, and telling her that I was very concerned about seeing this, more concerned about "participating" in it somehow. I remember going to the bathroom, and wanting to splash cold water on my face, wanting to cry,considering an escape out of the window, but wanting to preserve my well made up face....So I straightened my ponytail, ran my hands over my baby blue top, and headed to the hallway.

Upon recollecting the events of the day, it is strange to me, what I can recall and what I am unable to recall. I cannot recall who my psychiatric instructor was. I think I remember, but I do not know for sure.

So I am introduced to the staff and the Dr. At the clinic, and I am given a brief tour. I am taken into the room where the electro-convulsive therapy will take place. They show me the electrodes, and discuss placement of the electrodes, they give me instructions, about where to stand, the equipment that will be in use. The electroencephalograph, wires, electrodes, paper streaming out of the side of machines like a tongue wagging. The room is painted a blue color, the floors are carpeted, there are plants, and chairs, a table that resembles a massage table in the center of the room. The lighting is dim and ambient, the blinds are drawn, there are pretty pewter lamps in the corners.

When the patients enter, I have to tell them I am a student, and then I have to ask them if they mind me being present. They all agree that I can stand and watch. I was hoping they would all refuse. I do not want to watch....

I am trying to recall if these patients were in street clothes, or hospital gowns, and I cannot remember.

For some reason, even now I can recall the expressions on faces. I never forget a face, and for some reason I can't recall faces from this day, only eyes. I can see eyes looking at me, while electrodes are placed strategically on skulls covered with freshly combed hair. I can not recall the faces, but I can see the eyes. I remember the eyes looking at me.

The first client, a successful business woman, who gets her electroshock during her lunch hours. She is professional about it, it is business.

The second client a man, he came and went.

The third client a 22 year old female, my age at the time....Married, with children. She was silent, but nodded, and tried hard to smile, looking embarrassed. Her husband doing all of her talking, and giving me permission to watch. Today is their wedding anniversary. And, as they place the electrodes on her head I am looking at her. I am battling tears in my eyes. If she can lie on this table on her wedding anniversary, and not shed a tear, than I can at least give her the right look. The look that says I do not want to be here, I am sorry, I wish there was something I could do for her, and she is looking at me. For one second I think she knew what I was saying, and for one second, I knew she wanted to be me, living in a second floor walk up and going to nursing school.

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